The U.S. Army seeks a new armed reconnaissance helicopter that will range across the battlefield, acting as the eyes and ears of commanders on the ground.
Planned for an introduction in the 2020s, the Future Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) would give the Army back a capability it lost when the service put its scout helicopters out to pasture.
In the mid 2010s, the U.S. Army retired its fleet OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters.
The two person OH-58D acted as an aeroscout, locating and identifying enemy forces for its bigger siblings, the AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, to sweep in and destroy.
The OH-58Ds were removed from the Army inventory, through some of them still serve on in the Croatian Air Force.
Now the Army wants a new scout aircraft.According to Breaking DefenseFARA most likely would serve in new squadron-sized units, meaning a group of 24 to 30 aircraft.
These new air cavalry squadrons would provide Army corps commanders with their own recon capability, ranging out and locating threats before they close with friendly troops on the ground.
To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and knowing the locations of enemy forces will help ground commanders make critical decisions about their own forces.
According to Breaking Defense, could spread to the various existing helicopter units across the U.S. Army.
But what will FARA look like?
Breaking Defensepreviously identified three things the Army wants: speed (180 to 205 knots), small size (to fly down city streets), and optionally manned (a crew of two, one, or none).
FARA would probably be lightly armed, with a pair of Hellfire anti-tank missiles and a machine gun or rockets on outboard pylons.
The Army seems to have backed off the requirement that a scout aircraft be stealthy, which was a major reason whycosts escalated enough to kill the RAH-66 Comanche scout helicopter in 2004.
There are a few candidates that fit the bill for FARA—sort of.
The Sikorsky S-97 Raider (see top image) was built as part of a previous effort to field a new Army scout helicopter, but is a little too big to safely fly down city streets.
Another possibility is a scout chopper based on the Bell V-280 Valor.
But tiltrotors are notoriously wide aircraft because of the side-by-side configuration of the rotors, making them too big to fly down foreign boulevards.
Alternately, the Army could look at adapting an existing light helicopter design.
In related news, the Army will fly the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter “well into the 2040s,” per Military.com.
Although the service will someday replace the AH-64, possibly with an armed version of the Raider or Valor, the commander of the Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence, Maj. Gen. William Gayler, recently said, “the timing of what replaces (the Apache) and the affordability what replaces it has yet to be seen.”
The Army is currently buying the latest version of the Apache, the AH-64E Apache Guardian.
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With Ships and Missiles, China Is Ready to Challenge U.S. Navy in Pacific
“China’s first homegrown aircraft carrier just moved a bit, and the United States, Japan and India squirmed,” a military news website crowed, referring to the three nations China views as its main rivals.
Not long ago, such boasts would have been dismissed as the bravado of a second-string military. No longer.
A modernization program focused on naval and missile forces has shifted the balance of power in the Pacific in ways the United States and its allies are only beginning to digest.
While China lags in projecting firepower on a global scale, it can now challenge American military supremacy in the places that matter most to it: the waters around Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea.
That means a growing section of the Pacific Ocean — where the United States has operated unchallenged since the naval battles of World War II — is once again contested territory, with Chinese warships and aircraft regularly bumping up against those of the United States and its allies.
To prevail in these waters, according to officials and analysts who scrutinize Chinese military developments, China does not need a military that can defeat the United States outright but merely one that can make intervention in the region too costly for Washington to contemplate.
Many analysts say Beijing has already achieved that goal.
To do so, it has developed “anti-access” capabilities that use radar, satellites and missiles to neutralize the decisive edge that America’s powerful aircraft carrier strike groups have enjoyed.
It is also rapidly expanding its naval forces with the goal of deploying a “blue water” navy that would allow it to defend its growing interests beyond its coastal waters.
“China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States,” the new commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. Philip S. Davidson, acknowledged in written remarks submitted during his Senate confirmation process in March.
He described China as a “peer competitor” gaining on the United States not by matching its forces weapon by weapon but by building critical “asymmetrical capabilities,” including with anti-ship missiles and in submarine warfare.
“There is no guarantee that the United States would win a future conflict with China,” he concluded.
Last year, the Chinese Navy became the world’s largest, with more warships and submarines than the United States, and it continues to build new ships at a stunning rate.
Though the American fleet remains superior qualitatively, it is spread much thinner.
“The task of building a powerful navy has never been as urgent as it is today,” President Xi Jinping declared in April as he presided over a naval procession off the southern Chinese island of Hainan that opened exercises involving 48 ships and submarines.
The Ministry of National Defense said they were the largest since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949.
Even as the United States wages a trade war against China, Chinese warships and aircraft have picked up the pace of operations in the waters off Japan, Taiwan, and the islands, shoals and reefs it has claimed in the South China Sea over the objections of Vietnam and the Philippines.
When two American warships — the Higgins, a destroyer, and the Antietam, a cruiser — sailed within a few miles of disputed islands in the Paracels in May, Chinese vessels rushed to challenge what Beijing later denounced as “a provocative act.”
China did the same to three Australian ships passing through the South China Sea in April.
Only three years ago, Mr. Xi stood beside President Barack Obama in the Rose Garden and promised not to militarize artificial islands it has built farther south in the Spratlys archipelago. Chinese officials have since acknowledged deploying missiles there, but argue that they are necessary because of American “incursions” in Chinese waters.
When Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Beijing in June, Mr. Xi bluntly warned him that China would not yield “even one inch” of territory it claims as its own.
China’s naval expansion began in 2000 but accelerated sharply after Mr. Xi took command in 2013.
He has drastically shifted the military’s focus to naval as well as air and strategic rocket forces, while purging commanders accused of corruption and cutting the traditional land forces.
The People’s Liberation Army — the bedrock of Communist power since the revolution — has actually shrunk in order to free up resources for a more modern fighting force. Since 2015, the army has cut 300,000 enlisted soldiers and officers, paring the military to two million personnel over all, compared with 1.4 million in the United States.
While every branch of China’s armed forces lags behind the United States’ in firepower and experience, China has made significant gains in asymmetrical weaponry to blunt America’s advantages.
One focus has been in what American military planners call A2/AD, for “anti-access/area denial,” or what the Chinese call “counter-intervention.”
A centerpiece of this strategy is an arsenal of high-speed ballistic missiles designed to strike moving ships.
The latest versions, the DF-21D and, since 2016, the DF-26, are popularly known as “carrier killers,” since they can threaten the most powerful vessels in the American fleet long before they get close to China.
The DF-26, which made its debut in a military parade in Beijing in 2015 and was tested in the Bohai Sea last year, has a range that would allow it to menace ships and bases as far away as Guam, according to the latest Pentagon report on the Chinese military, released this month.
These missiles are almost impossible to detect and intercept, and are directed at moving targets by an increasingly sophisticated Chinese network of radar and satellites.
China announced in April that the DF-26 had entered service. State television showed rocket launchers carrying 22 of them, though the number deployed now is unknown.
A brigade equipped with them is reported to be based in Henan Province, in central China.
Such missiles pose a particular challenge to American commanders because neutralizing them might require an attack deep inside Chinese territory, which would be a major escalation.
The American Navy has never faced such a threat before, the Congressional Research Office warned in a report in May, adding that some analysts consider the missiles “game changing.”
The “carrier killers” have been supplemented by the deployment this year of missiles in the South China Sea.
The weaponry includes the new YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missile, which puts most of the waters between the Philippines and Vietnam in range.
While all-out war between China and the United States seems unthinkable, the Chinese military is preparing for “a limited military conflict from the sea,” according to a 2013 paper in a journal called The Science of Military Strategy.
Lyle Morris, an analyst with the RAND Corporation, said that China’s deployment of missiles in the disputed Paracel and Spratly Islands “will dramatically change how the U.S. military operates” across Asia and the Pacific.
The best American response, he added, would be “to find new and innovative methods” of deploying ships outside their range. Given the longer range of the ballistic missiles, however, that is not possible “in most contingencies” the American Navy would be likely to face in Asia.
Soldiers with the People’s Liberation Army Navy patrolling Woody Island in the disputed Paracel archipelago in 2016.
The aircraft carrier that put to sea in April for its first trials is China’s second, but the first built domestically.
It is the most prominent manifestation of a modernization project meant to propel the country into the upper tier of military powers.
Only the United States, with 11 nuclear-powered carriers, operates more than one.
A third Chinese carrier is under construction in a port near Shanghai.
Analysts believe China will eventually build five or six.
The Chinese military, traditionally focused on repelling a land invasion, increasingly aims to project power into the “blue waters” of the world to protect China’s expanding economic and diplomatic interests, from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
The carriers attract the most attention but China’s naval expansion has been far broader.
The Chinese Navy — officially the People’s Liberation Army Navy — has built more than 100 warships and submarines in the last decade alone, more than the entire naval fleets of all but a handful of nations.
Last year, China also introduced the first of a new class of a heavy cruisers — or “super destroyers” — that, according to the American Office of Naval Intelligence, “are comparable in many respects to most modern Western warships.”
Two more were launched from dry dock in Dalian in July, the state media reported.
Last year, China counted 317 warships and submarines in active service, compared with 283 in the United States Navy, which has been essentially unrivaled in the open seas since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Unlike the Soviet Union, which drained its coffers during the Cold War arms race, military spending in China is a manageable percentage of a growing economy.
Beijing’s defense budget now ranks second only to the United States: $228 billion to $610 billion, according to estimatesby the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The roots of China’s focus on sea power and “area denial” can be traced to what many Chinese viewed as humiliation in 1995 and 1996.
When Taiwan moved to hold its first democratic elections, China fired missiles near the island, prompting President Bill Clinton to dispatch two aircraft carriers to the region.
“We avoided the sea, took it as a moat and a joyful little pond to the Middle Kingdom,” a naval analyst, Chen Guoqiang, wrote recently in the official Navy newspaper.
“So not only did we lose all the advantages of the sea but also our territories became the prey of the imperialist powers.”
China’s naval buildup since then has been remarkable.
In 1995, China built only three new submarines to begin replacing an older fleet that totaled 83.
It now has nearly 60 new submarines and plans to expand to nearly 80, according to a report by the United States Congressional Research Service.
As it has in its civilian economy, China has bought or absorbed technologies from the rest of the world, in some cases illicitly.
Much of its military hardware is of Soviet origin or modeled on antiquated Soviet designs, but with each new wave of production, analysts say, China is deploying more advanced capabilities.
China’s first aircraft carrier was originally launched by the Soviet Union in 1988 and left to rust when the nation collapsed three years later.
Newly independent Ukraine sold it for $20 million to a Chinese investor who claimed it would become a floating casino, though he was really acting on behalf of Beijing, which refurbished the vessel and named it the Liaoning.
The second aircraft carrier — as yet unnamed — is largely based on the Liaoning’s designs, but is reported to have enhanced technology.
In February, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation disclosed that it has plans to build nuclear-powered carriers, which have far greater endurance than ones that require refueling stops.
China’s military has encountered some growing pains.
It is hampered by corruption, which Mr. Xi has vowed to wipe out, and a lack of combat experience.
As a fighting force, it remains untested by combat.
In January, it was embarrassed when one of its most advanced submarines was detected as it neared disputed islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.
The attack submarine should never have been spotted.
The second aircraft carrier also appears to have experienced hiccups.
Its first sea trials were announced in April and then inexplicably delayed.
Not long after the trials went ahead in May, the general manager of China Shipbuilding was placed under investigation for “serious violation of laws and discipline,” the official Xinhua news agency reported, without elaborating.
Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea. The deployment of missiles on three man-made reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands — Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross — has prompted protests from the White House.
Defending Its Claims
China’s military advances have nonetheless emboldened the country’s leadership.
The state media declared the carrier Liaoning “combat ready” in the summer after it moved with six other warships through the Miyako Strait that splits Japan’s Ryukyu Islands and conducted its first flight operationsin the Pacific.
The Liaoning’s battle group now routinely circles Taiwan. So do Chinese fighter jets and bombers.
China’s new J-20 stealth fighter conducted its first training mission at sea in May, while its strategic bomber, the H-6, landed for the first time on Woody Island in the Paracels.
From the airfield there or from those in the Spratly Islands, the bombers could strike all of Southeast Asia.
The recent Pentagon report noted that H-6 flights in the Pacific were intended to demonstrate the ability to strike American bases in Japan and South Korea, and as far away as Guam.
“Competition is the American way of seeing it,” said Li Jie, an analyst with the Chinese Naval Research Institute in Beijing.
“China is simply protecting its rights and its interests in the Pacific.”
And China’s interests are expanding.
In 2017, it opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, saying that it will be used to support its participation in multinational antipiracy patrols off Somalia.
It now appears to be planning to acquire access to a network of ports and bases throughout the Indian Ocean.
Though ostensibly commercial, these projects have laid the groundwork for a necklace of refueling and resupply arrangements that will “facilitate Beijing’s long-range naval operations,” according to a new report by C4ADS, a research organization in Washington.
“They soon will be able, for example, to send a squadron of ships to somewhere, say in Africa, and have all the capabilities to make a landing in force to protect Chinese assets,” said Vassily Kashin, an expert with the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.
The need was driven home in 2015 when Chinese warships evacuated 629 Chinese and 279 foreigners from Yemen when the country’s civil war raged in Aden, a southern port city.
One of the frigates involved in the rescue, the Linyi, was featured in a patriotic blockbuster film, “Operation Red Sea.”
“The Chinese are going to be more present,” Mr. Kashin added, “and everyone has to get used to it.”
Fighter jets on the Liaoning in the East China Sea in April.CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images
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The barrier enclosing the two million Palestinians “living” in the Gaza Strip is not a border between two countries, as the media have insistently called it.
It is a wall erected by Israel to make the suffering of those living inside the Gaza ghetto as invisible as possible to those living outside it.
Israel has told Gazans that anyone attempting to breach this wall and escape from Gaza will be shot. Anyone approaching it will be shot. And that is precisely what has happened over the weeks of protests by Palestinian refugees seeking to highlight their seventy-year exile from land they can see just beyond the wall.
Scores of Palestinians have been killed, including journalists and children. Thousands more have been injured by live fire, with many losing legs and arms to amputations. Alongside this, there has been a report of one Israeli soldier hurt by a stone.
There are many words for what this is. Palestinians speak of heroism, resistance, dedication, and martyrdom.
The Israeli government calls the shoot-to-kill and shoot-to-injure policies “self-defense.”
Individual soldiers call it “following orders.”
Israeli human rights groups, meanwhile, call the policy ordered by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman “grossly illegal.”
My grandmother would have called it a shanda (Yiddish for a “disgrace”). But whether it is heroism or self-defense; whether the orders to shoot are legal or illegal; the mounting Israeli gun violence the world has been forced to witness along the Gaza ghetto wall is, without a doubt, disgusting.
For any human being, no matter what their political views or ties to Israel or to Palestinian Arabs, the continuous mass shooting of Palestinian civilians is, or should be, emotionally and spiritually intolerable.
That it is psychologically and politically possible for Palestinians to continue sacrificing themselves in this way testifies to the desperation of their circumstances; that it is psychologically and politically possible for Israelis to murder and maim so many men, women, and children trying to escape from the ghetto within which they have been concentrated, or just trying to attract the world’s attention to their suffering, is a tragic and humiliating stain on the Jewish state and the Zionist movement that created it.
It is also entirely self-defeating for a state struggling against efforts to “delegitimize” its existence.
To be sure, there is always Israeli hasbara, or propaganda, to help those seeking some way to suppress the revulsion and pain that any decent person must feel at the stories coming out of Gaza. This hasbara insists that the protests are nothing more than a cynical Hamas publicity stunt. It tells us that armed Hamas terrorists are hiding themselves among the demonstrators, using the miserable masses to conceal their efforts to kill Israelis.
Who could doubt this? When the British ruled Palestine, the underground Jewish army prided itself on hiding arms factories in grammar schools and synagogues.
And as we know, in any besieged ghetto there will be ghetto fighters, and they will be treated as heroes by those on the inside, and terrorists by those on the outside.
But if there are certainly men of violence among the masses of protestors, let us not forget that alongside the many Israeli soldiers who surely suffer some pangs of conscience, there are some, as we have seen on videotape, who high-five one another for using fancy sniper rifles to put big holes in human bodies hundreds of yards away.
As for those in charge of the security policies of the current Israeli government, they know all too well what they are doing, what horror they are inflicting.
The security hawks that staff leading think tanks and Israeli government ministries regularly speak of the need to “mow the lawn” in Gaza, to keep the population there on a “strict diet,” and to “manage the conflict” by using purposefully inflicted suffering to sear into Palestinian hearts the belief that resistance is futile.
When Israel adopted its policy of enforcing a hermetic seal around Gaza in 2007, a political geographer at Haifa University named Arnon Soffer offered his full-throated endorsement, but added that it would eventually mean, not shooting armed men, but “putting a bullet in the head of anyone who tries to climb over the security barrier.”
“If we want to remain alive,” he said, by which he meant if Israel wants to remain a “Jewish” state, “we will have to kill and kill and kill.”
The struggle for a two-state solution is not moribund; it is dead.
This is true even if the pretense that negotiations could succeed remains a useful excuse—a way for Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States, and the peace-process industry to exploit or ignore the deepening oppression of the current one-state reality.
As documented by the Israeli military, there are now more Palestinians under the control of the Israeli state than there are Jews.
Indeed, for all intents and purposes the Palestinians of Gaza and of the West Bank are already within the Jewish state.
They are citizens of no other country, no other recognized state. As measured by how much impact the State of Israel has over the intimate details of their lives, and indeed over whether they will live at all, they are as much inhabitants of the State of Israel as black slaves were inhabitants of the United States or as Africans in the Bantustans were inhabitants of apartheid South Africa.
The five-decade occupation of the West Bank and the dozen-year blockade of Gaza, combined with regularly inflicted violent punishment, just mark differences in the way the Israeli state governs different populations in different regions.
The truth is, no matter how much Israelis try to deny or distance themselves from the suffering their government is inflicting on the people of Gaza, their fates are intimately intertwined.
Consider Ashkelon, an Israeli city on the Mediterranean coast thirteen miles from the Gaza Strip.
Before the expulsion of its population to Gaza after the 1948 war, it was the Palestinian town of Majdal. Israel (with the complicity of the Palestinian Authority) has reduced the amount of electricity allowed into Gaza so that it is available for not more than four hours.
For two million people that means real misery, but it also means that sewage treatment plants cannot operate properly, contributing to the fact that 97 percent of the drinking water in Gaza is contaminated.
Experts warn of cholera and other epidemics that are liable to be unleashed in Gaza and spread beyond the wall surrounding it.
Meanwhile, Ashkelon’s desalination plant, a facility that provides Israel with 20 percent of the its drinking water, has had to shut down on a number of occasions because of sewage from Gaza flowing into the area’s waters, while the city’s beaches have been closed because of fecal matter washing up on the shore.
In the long run the solution to the human catastrophe that is the Gaza Strip will be to fully integrate its population into the society whose state controls it.
Right now, and for the foreseeable future, that state is Israel.
But the immediate requirement is to end the brutal blockade that immiserates it and drains all hope from its inhabitants—a direction of policy advocated by many Israeli military and security experts.
Only by doing so can life there be normal enough to convince ordinary Palestinians in Gaza that it is worth more than what happens to them when they try to escape.
……………….where to now?………..w
After 17 years of war, Taliban field commanders signal openness to peace talks
Kabul (CNN) Faced with a resurgent ISIS threat and emboldened by recent gains on the battlefield, two senior Taliban field commanders suggested they are open to peace talks with the Afghan government after 17 years of war.